You’ve started to eat better. You’ve sworn off the fried food, cut your sugar intake, and substituted junk with healthier options. So why do you feel worse than before?
When you switch to a new diet, you may experience temporary discomfort. This is because your body may take a while to adapt to the new changes. The good news is that these side effects are short-term roadblocks on your journey to better health, and most will go away in about 1-2 weeks.
Side effects of changing your diet may include:
- Feeling hungry
- Excess gas or bloating
- Stomach cramps
- Mood changes (irritability)
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Food cravings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Nutritional deficiencies (especially with fad diets)
These side effects are usually mild and temporary. However, if your symptoms persist, become severe, or involve excessive vomiting, fainting,or dehydration, you should seek medical attention right away.
Why does changing my diet make me uncomfortable?
Most of the side effects associated with changing your diet are usually caused by the increased amount of protein and fiber in your diet, although sometimes it’s just your brain craving caffeine or sugar.
Other reasons for discomfort may include the following:
- You are consuming too few calories.
- Your diet is very restrictive, completely eliminating fats, carbs, or sugar.
- You have restricted your diet to too few food groups.
- Your diet is not providing you with enough nutrients.
- You are not drinking enough water.
- You have not included enough (or even too much) fiber and protein in your diet.
- Your brain is craving the feel-good hormones your favorite foods normally give you.
- You are expecting too many positive changes in your body too soon.
How to make healthy eating habits sustainable
Healthy eating is not a crash course or quick fix; it has to be a way of life. That means your diet needs to be sustainable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a three-pronged approach to improving your eating habits:
- Reflect: Reflect on your specific eating habits and understand what triggers you to make unhealthy choices.
- Keep a food diary where you write down what all you eat in a day and when you feel hungry the most.
- Highlight bad habits, such as eating when stressed or bored, skipping meals, or eating too fast.
- Identify bad habits that you can improve first, as well as ideas for how you can avoid the triggers that cause them.
- Replace: Replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones.
- Once you’ve identified bad habits, replace them with healthy ones (for example:
- Eat when you’re hungry and not when you are stressed or bored.
- Avoid distractions like watching TV so you can focus on how much you’re eating.
- Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly.
- Drink enough water throughout the day so you don’t get as hungry.
- Replace unhealthy snacks with healthier options.
- Don’t treat food as a punishment or reward, but as fuel to nourish your body.
- Plan your meals ahead of time so that you eat a balanced meal.
- Add variety to your meals so that you don’t get tired of eating the same things.
- Once you’ve identified bad habits, replace them with healthy ones (for example:
- Reinforce: Reinforce your new eating habits over time
- Commit to making healthy eating your lifestyle.
- Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip a few times. It takes time to develop good habits, so go easy on yourself and take it one day at a time.
- Keep reminding yourself why you started eating healthier and what you plan to achieve. Remind yourself how far you have come and what benefits your diet can bring to your life.
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Some doctors and other health care professionals recommend natural remedies like chamomile or peppermint tea, or pumpkin to relieve bloating. Examples of OTC medicine (medicine available without a prescription) and other products that may relieve bloating and gassiness are, Gas-X, Beano, Pepto Bismol, Metamucil, probiotics, and Ex-Lax for constipation associated with bloating. If you have persistent or severe gas and bloating, and if you have any of these symptoms see a doctor or other healthcare professional, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, bloody diarrhea, fever, or if you think you are or may be pregnant.